|1991 newspaper clipping about the Ossining Farmers Market
In tribute to the season of seedlings, we wanted to share the story of our early days. It goes like this…
Years ago, as the 1980s were giving way to the 1990s, a young mother named Miriam Haas started looking for local, organic apples. She and her family had recently moved to Ossining, NY, and having been an avid gardener all her life, she was curious to know where her food came from. Her apple quest came out of concern about Alar, a chemical sprayed on apple trees at the time to keep the fruit on the trees longer and make its color brighter. The chemical was also leading to a steady stream of reports that it was harmful to people, especially children. Miriam wanted a choice beyond these apples at the regular grocery store — the ones from thousands of miles away, stacked in high piles, all year around.
So she started making phone calls. The calls led to the formation of a new group, Families for Safe Food, with the mission of “increasing the local availability of organically produced food and related environmental issues.” The group created a food co-op, taking orders from each family, one by one, through lengthy phone calls. The process was arduous.
When the food came in, the group arranged for pick-ups in the only space they could find: a cold, drafty bard. “The kids loved it and they would run around, but we were freezing to death,” Miriam recalls, “I remember thinking, ‘There has got to be a better way’.”
The better way became the Ossining Farmers Market. In August of 1991, she opened the market with two farmers and a hand-painted sign. Ossining had held a market years before, but it had lost momentum and closed. Miriam’s efforts were met with a lot of enthusiasm in the market’s first days, but it was slow to build after that. Looking to 1992, she had only one confirmed farmer for the market. So she sent a letter far and wide to recruit more vendors. “I feel it gives a better impression if there is more than one vendor on the first day of the market,” she wrote.
Indeed, her straight-forward message worked, and the market began to grow. In 1993, she opened with three farmers, making the market eligible for the WIC Farmers Market Coupon Program. By 1995, her year-end letter to the market vendors asked them, “Are there any crops that haven’t been grown that would appeal to our growing Hispanic community?”
Now, over twenty-two years of Saturday mornings later, people continue to come to the Ossining Farmers Market at the corner of Spring and Main Streets in the center of town. Today Down to Earth Markets runs approximately 18 markets between Westchester and Rockland Counties, as well as in NYC.
It is said that the tree is as tall as its roots are deep. We love having deep roots in our market communities and look forward to the years ahead of growing together. Thank you for coming out to support local farmers and food makers at our markets this weekend!